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Benny Shoga
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Post by Benny Shoga »

Hello all.

Glad to have found this community and the plethora of resources and knowledge shared. A little bit of backstory about me, I lived in Japan for 5 years in my 20's before returning to Canada with (Japanese) wife in tow. I am 40 now and we have had a nice life in Canada but I feel our time here has run it's course and we are starting to seriously think about moving back to Japan and putting down roots in the countryside (wife is originally from Shizuoka). We were lucky to have invested in the real estate market here before it took off and if we liquidated all of our assets we would have a nice little nest egg to give us the freedom to pursue our interests to make a living in Japan. We both have an interest in organic farming but I am wondering how we could potentially make this a viable livelihood; is it realistic to think we could support ourselves as amateur farmers? Are there certain cash crops we could pursue to keep the lights on? What are some other avenues one could make a modest living while living in rural Japan?

Thank you for your time.

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Zasso Nouka
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Post by Zasso Nouka »

Welcome to the forum Benny Shoga and thank you for taking the time to sign up. We really do appreciate you taking the time to join our community.

So, you'd like to get into farming then. Well just watch this short introductory video and it will give you all the information you need to hit the ground running and start your own farm.



Jokes aside, can you make a living as an amateur farmer ? Maybe but possibly not. However, can you make it as a full time farmer ? Yes absolutely but a lot depends on what you want to do, where you live and how you play it.

There are some cash crops that you can grow as a staple and fill in with other vegetables but a lot depends on what is happening in the area you are living in, what connections you have there and how you are able to market your produce. Not insurmountable problems but a lot depends on what you want, where you want it and what kind of vision you have.

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Post by gonbechan »

Hi @Benny Shoga and welcome.
Apart from farming, there is always the old go to 'eikaiwa' if you have the energy for that, or be more modern like a lot of people and just document your whole journey, from moving back to Japan, looking for land, buying land and your daily life .. on Youtube.

We even have a section talking about that somewhere in the nethers of JSL :D

If you do go into farming, you could hook up with WWOOF and have some willing slaves Wwoofers come help you get your farm set up and manage it during the peak seasons.

I am of the school of .. there's many ways to skin a cat, but you just have to keep skinning them till you find the perfect one haha.

Looking forward to hearing how your journey progresses.

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Post by Zasso Nouka »

gonbechan wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2023 6:36 pm
We even have a section talking about that somewhere in the nethers of JSL :D
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gonbechan wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2023 6:36 pm
If you do go into farming, you could hook up with WWOOF and have some willing slaves Wwoofers come help you get your farm set up and manage it during the peak seasons.
There's a chap around our way that seems to have a thriving business endlessly employing folk that want to learn farming. He literally pays them nothing but provides a place to sleep and as much vegetables as they can eat, not going to call it modern day slavery as they seem willing volunteers but it's not far off

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Post by VanillaEssence »

Zasso Nouka wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2023 7:29 pm

Jokes aside, can you make a living as an amateur farmer ? Maybe but possibly not. However, can you make it as a full time farmer ? Yes absolutely but a lot depends on what you want to do, where you live and how you play it.
On this point I want to emphasise some of the difficulty with farming in Japan. I think you are going to want to focus on marketing fresh local produce or doing organic (which the government actually is supporting still). Japan's recent free trade agreements mean that within the next 10 years the tariffs on just about all agricultural goods will be reduced to zero. This means that you will have to compete with imports from both developing countries as well as new world mechanised farms in places like Canada and Australia.

While this should be good for consumers it is going to be very hard for Japanese agriculture to compete with mechanised farming done at a large scale. One obvious solution is to make land consolidation easier so Japanese farms can enjoy some of the benefits of economies at scale, but as far as I know this is still extremely difficult.

In order to compete I think you do need to offer some kind of "boutique" experience that will make Japanese consumers choose your products over cheaper alternatives. At least your property costs should be comparatively low.

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Post by Zasso Nouka »

That's a good point @VanillaEssence raises about tarrifs on imported fruit and veg but there are some caveats that might be worth mentioning. Not everyone but there seems to be a sizeable number of people that prefer domestically grown produce, look what happened when Japan had to import rice one year from other south east Asian countries.

Developing a local or local-ish customer base is certainly a very good idea and saved our bacon when the covid crisis hit and restaurant sales dropped off a cliff. Those are the people who will buy your stuff repeatedly and give you reliable sales.

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Post by VanillaEssence »

Zasso Nouka wrote:
Sat Nov 18, 2023 7:53 am
That's a good point @VanillaEssence raises about tarrifs on imported fruit and veg but there are some caveats that might be worth mentioning. Not everyone but there seems to be a sizeable number of people that prefer domestically grown produce, look what happened when Japan had to import rice one year from other south east Asian countries.

Developing a local or local-ish customer base is certainly a very good idea and saved our bacon when the covid crisis hit and restaurant sales dropped off a cliff. Those are the people who will buy your stuff repeatedly and give you reliable sales.
Yeah it is those people who should be the target market. Rice is a funny one and still remains protected for now, however one expects over the next decade as many farmers start dying and retiring their political clout will fall further and the government will be freer to liberalise the rice industry.

It would be nice if this liberalisation caused some structural changes in Japan's agriculture industry, but if we look at the impact of GATT, the result was consumers as a whole chose cheaper imports.

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Post by Zasso Nouka »

I was more thinking of the complaints that were directed at imported rice, things like it smelled funny or wasn't suited to the Japanese diet or culinary ways of doing things. Admittedly that was many years ago and things maybe different now. Just look at the number of people picking up imported veg in Costco.

Hopefully small niche farms with dedicated local customers will be nimble enough to adapt to the new conditions or bigger farmers may be able to work on their branding so they don't get swept away under a tsunami of cheap imported vegetables.

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Post by VanillaEssence »

Zasso Nouka wrote:
Sat Nov 18, 2023 11:32 am
I was more thinking of the complaints that were directed at imported rice, things like it smelled funny or wasn't suited to the Japanese diet or culinary ways of doing things.
Yeah it’s funny, since lots of Japanese rice contains high levels of cadmium, and if I recall correctly the government moved the goal posts by changing the “safe” amount by increasing it without any scientific basis.

I’m happy to buy Japanese rice, but the current situation is ludicrous and production costs 3x more than it should because of japan’s backward practices. Rice is just much more expensive than it should be in Japan. Personally I don’t think I could tell the difference between koshihikari grown in japan or Uruguay. I reckon if the JAs were a bit more forward thinking they’d be trying to promote better practices now.

One of my favourite fun facts was that back when the Japanese government used to buy rice directly, they spent more on that in 1987 than they did on defence.

Part of the issue is that there are no big Japanese farms so there are no benefits from economies of scale. I think the average size is still 2 hectares. That’s just too small to do very much when competing outside of niches.

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Post by Zasso Nouka »

I'm sure our village is no exception but it seems barmy to me that so many countryside households duplicate all the rice farming machinery rather than clubbing together. So each house has a tractor, a rice planter, a combine, a dryer, a miller plus all the other ancillary equipment, all that needs maintaining and servicing.

Having said that we buy our rice from our neighbour even if it is somewhat more expensive because it's about supporting the local economy for us. However like you I can't tell the difference between different varieties of rice much or the same varieties grown in different locations but lets just keep that between ourselves :shhh: